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Northern Ireland economy still 4% below peak of 2007 even before onset of coronavirus crisis

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Drone photos show empty roads in Belfast City Centre.
Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.

Drone photos show empty roads in Belfast City Centre. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.

Drone photos show empty roads in Belfast City Centre. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.

Northern Ireland's economy remained 4% below its peak of 2007 even before the oubreak of coronavirus, according to a report.

The Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index (NICEI), which monitors economic growth, said the economy had peaked in spring of 2007, and that we are still lagging below that former high.

In contrast, GDP in the UK was around 13.5% higher than its pre-downturn peak of early 2008.

The NI Statistics and Research Agency, which compiles the index, said the latest results show that Britain "has had a shorter downturn and a faster recovery than Northern Ireland".

As a result of the coronavirus outbreak and shutdown, the UK economy is expected to plunge into recession, with NI forecast to see a 10% contraction - even worse than in 2008.

However, the NICEI said there had been growth in activity in Northern Ireland over the year of 0.7%, as well as quarterly growth of 0.2% between the third and fourth quarter.

But on a year-on-year basis, our expansion was eclipsed by UK growth of 1.1%.

Growth over the quarter was powered by the production sector and the public sector, though there was a fall in activity in the building trade.

There was also growth in private sector output of 0.2% over the year, and expansion in public sector jobs of 1.8% over the year.

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Dr Esmond Birnie

Dr Esmond Birnie

Nigel McDowell/Ulster University

Dr Esmond Birnie

Dr Esmond Birnie of the Ulster University economic policy centre said the index demonstrated that the decline after the last recession had continued from 2007 to 2013.

But he added: "Let's hope this time really will be different and that the economy will start up much more quickly after the Covid recession."

A report by the economic policy centre this week said our economy could shrink by 10% this year. But Dr Birnie said that if the lockdown lasts beyond June, the economy could contract by 20%, which he said would be "the worst peacetime depression experienced in the UK during the last century".

Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said UK GDP fell by 0.1% during February, as it slipped from 0.1% growth in January.

Belfast Telegraph